Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> diary

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The Independent Online

Cameron-watchers will be hoping for some spicy revelations in Dylan Jones's new book, out next week. The 'GQ' editor has certainly had no shortage of access. "For the past 12 months I've been spending so much time in the Norman Shaw building behind Portcullis House in Westminster that I thought I might have to start paying council tax," he quips. But how searching will Jones's book be? In an ideal world, Jones would be an MP himself, and he seems to have been won over by Dave's redoubtable charm. He recalls a wet evening in Manchester when he got a call from the art director of 'GQ' in LA, who, having wrapped a shoot of Cameron Diaz was off for a drink with her. "When I relayed this to Cameron, he looked at the teeming northern rain and said, rather wistfully, "Well, you sure picked the wrong Cameron, didn't you?"

Are the Tories abandoning their green credentials? Writing in 'The Times' last week, Alice Thomson convincingly argued that being green is no longer cool, noting that David Cameron has only given one environmental speech since Christmas. Meanwhile, Tory MP Hugo Swire, once a member of Dave's shadow cabinet, has upset his constituents by changing his tune on the proposed giant Asda Walmart beside the River Exe in Exmouth. In 2005 he presented a petition against the development to Parliament, bearing more than 10,000 names, but now that a different site has been found Swire supports the development, and is merely quibbling with the shop's architecture. Locals remain adamant that the proposed supermarket would ruin Exmouth's infrastructure, wherever it goes.

Journalist Ron Suskind has annoyed the White House by alleging that a letter linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qa'ida was forged by the CIA. He claims the letter, supposedly from the head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service to Hussein stating that 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta had trained in Iraq, was faked to order and back-dated to two months before 9/11. Suskind's allegations are doubtless very embarrassing for Con Coughlin, the journalist who breathlessly broke the news of the letter's existence in 'The Sunday Telegraph' in 2003. Coughlin, known to have intelligence service contacts, has subsequently been dismissed from his desk job at 'The Telegraph', although he retains a grand title and still writes for it. Under his command, eight foreign correspondents left the paper in quick succession.

Lembit Opik is said to be distraught after his dumping by Gabriela Irimia, the delightful Cheeky Girl. What could it have been about the Estonian Lib Dem MP for Montgomeryshire that put her off? Let's hope it wasn't his weakness for publicity. The latest issue of footballing mag 'FourFourTwo' features an interview with Opik, which seems to have been conducted before the break-up. Opik is quoted saying of Gabriela, "She quite likes football, actually. I've not taken her to watch Leicester, though. We're not married yet and I think that would be grounds for divorce." He seems to have spoken too soon.

This week sees the start of 'Maestro', the BBC2 series in which eight shelebriddies compete to conduct the BBC Concert Orchestra. Among them are Alex James, Goldie and Jane Asher, who has admitted to wondering what the point of a conductor is. Feisty violinist Nigel Kennedy is entirely in agreement with Asher. He says, "I don't want my interpretation to be watered down by some guy waving a white stick. I want to work and communicate directly with the musicians in the orchestra.... There are many conductors I do admire, but in a lot of cases I'd rather not have the conductor's ego competing with the music." If anyone should know about competitive egos...

After many rejections from publishers, Sarah Anderson bravely self-published her memoirs about life with one arm. 'Halfway to Venus' has been well received, drawing praise from Colin Thubron and Nicholas Shakespeare, but it seems Anderson's friends have organised a sweepstake on how many copies she can shift in a year. Among those to have chipped in a tenner are Anderson's agent Gillon Aitken, and her sister Liz, arts editor of 'The Spectator'. "The book has been out three months and already some people have lost," Anderson tells me. Surely über-agent Aitken isn't among them? "He might be. But I couldn't say. I certainly don't want to upset him!"

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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